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Brining Your Way to the Perfect Moist Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving, Roast Turkey
Perfect Roasted Turkey

I grew up in a house that did not specialize in roasted turkey.  In fact, I didn't even know turkey could taste like something other than styrofoam until I was in my late twenties.  Rather, it was one of those obligatory must-have holiday food-stuffs, a single serving of which held you over until the next year.  Sorry Grandma Martini, you know it's true.

Then I had to create a Thanksgiving dinner for my own family, and I really, really didn't want Mr. Martini to think I had no idea what I was doing.  Enter: The Brined Turkey.  I was totally afraid of brining, as may people are.  I mean, how can you soak a piece of meat in water that would literally kill a person if they drank it, and end up with something tasty?  It defies logic.  But I assure you, this recipe makes far and away the best turkey I have ever had.  Perfectly tender, moist and delicious.   It is truly worth all the effort.  Do not fear all the salt, the bird will not absorb it. You will not be left with an over salted bird, I promise.


14-16 lbs. turkey, thawed if frozen

5 gallon unused and cleaned bucket (I used a 5 gallon bucket purchased at Menards)
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
1 gallon heavily iced water
2 lemons, sliced in half
4 bay leaves

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup water

Turkey Cavity:
4 sprigs rosemary
6 sage leaves
vegetable oil

On the day before roasting:
Bring salt, brown sugar, stock, and allspice berries to a boil, just to dissolve the sugar and salt. Let it cool. Combine brine, water and ice in the 5 gallon bucket and place your turkey with inerds removed, breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it remains fully immersed (I didn't need to, but a brick covered in tinfoil stuffed in a water-tight plastic bag would do the trick). Cover and refrigerate (or stick in the garage if you live in the tundra) for 8-16 hours (the longer, the better). Turn bird once half way through brining.

The day of roasting:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  I know, insane right?  There is a method to the madness.  Cranking up the heat gives the skin time to get all toasty.  You turn the heat down after 30 minutes.

Remove bird from brine, and rinse inside and out with cold water. Place your bird on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Combine aromatic ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with sage and rosemary. Tuck wings underneath the bird and coat skin with oil. You can truss the legs if you are so inclined.

Roast turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast for about 2-2 1/2 hours, or until a thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the breast reads 151 degrees. Let turkey rest loosely covered with foil for at least 15 minutes before carving.

**You may also want to build a breast plate (i.e. tinfoil armor for your bird that covers the breast but leaves the legs exposed) when you change the temp. from 500 to 350. This will ensure the breast doesn't get too browned.  If you feel like your bird isn't browning enough after about 1 1/2 hours in, remove your breast plate and baste with 7-up.  The sugars in the 7-up carmelize on the skin and give it the little push it needs to get all Florida retiree brown.


  1. I'm using your brining method this year--when I tried it last year, the turkey tasted funny, though. It tasted like delicious, succulent turkey, not like cardboard. That takes some getting used to....

    1. I'd take cardboard turkey... I expect to have Chinese. Or a bucket o'chicken this year. Maybe I can bang out a Thanksgiving meal the day after we move, but I think the Colonel is a better idea. Just this once ;)

  2. Nice! I'm sending this to Mr. Clever (he's a bigger turkey junkie than The Old Man from A Christmas Story).

    1. It is kind of a hassle... but it really is the best turkey ever!


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